7 Expert Tips on Choosing the Right Website Host

7 Expert Tips on Choosing the Right Website Host

Your website host is often the deciding factor on how quickly and smoothly your website loads. In 2021, it’s important to have a short load time in order to appease the SEO gods (aka Google). We understand that some hosting options can be expensive, but we’re here to explain what to look for in the first place – then you can decide for yourself if it’s worth what they’re charging.

That being said, here are some thoughts followed by seven important aspects to look for when choosing a hosting provider for your website.

What is a website hosting provider?

Your website hosting provider is essentially the home for your website; it’s going to handle all your traffic, bandwidth, and files, such as images and videos. And, like a home, all that stuff starts piling up the longer you’re there. It takes longer to move, it takes longer to find things… you get the idea. Having a great host is akin to having a maintenance team keeping everything in line; it stays clean, organized and if you’re lucky, it smells good too.

Vector illustration of a team of workers checking serverExamples of website hosting providers

Below are some examples of web hosts. You may have heard of some of them, and others might be brand new. There are a TON of different hosting providers, so we totally get that it might be confusing and quite overwhelming. Hopefully by the end of this, you’ll know what their strengths and weaknesses are in relation to your website needs.

Cheaper DEFINITELY doesn’t mean better!

Sure, seeing that $1.99 per month for the first year ($24 for a year of hosting? Yes, please!) is probably super enticing. Understandably so, most businesses are looking to spend a bit less on something like hosting, which they might not perceive as important. However, since we’re in the throes of the roaring 20’s, we need to start thinking about our website as an employee that is working for you 24/7. Why? Because it’s true! Your website is ALWAYS available for current and new customers to find out about you, what you do, and how you can help them. Dave is only there from 9am to 5pm and once 5pm hits… he’s gone.

When a website hosting provider offers hosting for a low, low price, you can be certain it is set up on what’s called “shared hosting.” This means that many other websites, not just yours, are sharing the server space and resources. How does your maintenance team know who to help if World’s Best Brooms, Ye Olde Barber Shoppe, and Mary’s Carries (It’s a Bag Store) are all in the same room? It gets messy.

You might be more apt to spring for a managed hosting plan, depending on your needs. This tells you your website is the ONLY website on that server. All the space and all the resources are allocated to your website and your website alone. It’s a good thing!

What to look for when deciding on a website hosting provider

1. Is the hosting provider a managed hosting plan or a shared hosting plan?

This is arguably the most important thing to look for, depending on the needs of you and your business. Is speed an important factor of your website? For most, it is. Not only is a short load time crucial for SEO, if you think about your website as an employee, it makes sense. Say you walk into a store and an employee greets you. You ask, “Where can I find the world’s best broom?” The employee (the website) says, “One moment please.” The employee stands there with a blank look and stares at you for six to 10 seconds. Pretty uncomfortable right? Now, imagine there are 30 people inside the store, asking that same employee to find something. It would take forever! This is basically what happens in shared hosting.

Our guess is that after this happens, you’d probably leave and try to find a different broom store. This is often what will happen if your website takes a long time to load; the potential customer will find another website that loads in a snap so they can get the information they seek faster.

Now, let’s say this employee is on a managed (or dedicated) hosting plan. You ask your question, and in two seconds or less they’re showing you where the best broom is as well as any relevant information; what makes this broom the best? Do you have suggestions for other brooms for different tasks? Why in the world did you open a broom store? Again, we’re guessing that in this scenario, you’d probably leave that store in less than five minutes with the world’s best broom in your hand and you’d feel pretty dang good about it.

Speed report graph

2. What kind of security does the hosting plan provide?

Security is IMPORTANT. It’s 2021, as you may be aware, and there’s no doubt you may have heard of several high-profile hacks in recent years (specifically in 2020!). This is purely a security issue that these businesses were not ready for, and it hits them hard. So… what happens when your website gets hacked? If you have a great host, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Some of them will even get it all cleaned up for FREE because they themselves know how important it is to be secure (they can get hurt, too, if word gets out that they’re not secure!) as well as how much it sucks to get hacked.

If you’re asking yourself, “Does my website have security measures in place?” then it most likely doesn’t, or doesn’t have much. Here are a few security measures you might try and find out the host provides:

  • Free malware removal – it can happen, and if it does it can be complicated.
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) – passwords aren’t perfect, especially “password” or “12345678.” With 2FA, it adds an extra step for anyone trying to login; this could be a security question or an SMS message for example.
  • IP blocking – prevents hackers from before they can attack.
  • Limited login attempts – helps against brute force attacks.
  • WordPress updates – if your website is running on WordPress, you’ll want to keep everything up-to-date. This patches security holes in plugins and software, and corrects bugs.
  • Patching – this can also be called “autohealing.” If there is a service failure, such as a PHP error, your website won’t go down… it will just fix itself!

One last note on security, you’ll DEFINITELY want an SSL certificate for your website. This is another important factor with Google and SEO; does the host offer an SSL certificate either free or at a charge? Either way you’ll want one, but we’re strongly for hosts that offer one (and install it) for free.

3. Does the website hosting provider offer any type of CDN?

Some hosts will include a CDN service in your plan. A CDN is a content delivery network; this helps serve static & cached content from global points of presence (POP). When your visitors land on your website, the server that is geographically closest to them will hold files which help cut down on load time and improves performance in general. There are external CDN services out there which are highly recommended, but having it built in to your hosting is a huge plus – another thing you don’t have to worry about. Some traditional CDNs only cache site assets (*.css, *.js, etc.) which is all well and good, but a great hosting provider might also include full-page caching which would include all the HTML on your pages. This drastically improves your TTFB (time to first byte), which falls in line with your load times for SEO.

Use our FREE website SEO checker to help identify problems that could be holding your site back from it’s potential!

4. How often will your website be backed up?

Website backups are not only great to have, they’re important! Many shared hosting providers don’t offer website backups without a ridiculous charge; this is mostly because they don’t have the space. With an awesome managed hosting provider, they’ll update your website and all necessary files (images, videos, pages, posts, database, etc.) daily! Most will keep about a month’s worth of backups, but some might even offer more. Having daily backups can give you peace of mind that if something DOES go wrong, which inevitably happens, you can quickly and effortlessly roll back to a version of your website that is still working correctly and troubleshoot from there.

Along with backups, you may want to look into uptime monitoring. This is pretty much what it sounds like; is your website up and active? Yes? Great, all systems go, keep doing you. No? Hey, your website just went down and it’s been down for three minutes now! That’s the equivalent of that employee we talked about earlier just disappearing despite being the only one available; another lost conversion. Good uptime monitoring checks your website every five (5) minutes or less to make sure it’s available (that’s 288 checks on your website per day). This allows you to be proactive and react to issues before they might affect a large number of visitors.

5. Will your website be scalable on the hosting plan?

Scaling refers to growth. When you post a viral video about a new product, for example, you should expect a HUGE influx of visitors. Will the server your website is hosted on be able to handle all that without crashing? On shared hosting, that’s a hard no. When a hosting provider offers scaling, it’s definitely a great thing and it has YOUR SUCCESS in mind. A good host will scale instantly and automatically to prevent your website from crashing, and eliminates the need to migrate your website to a host with more hardware available.

To get a good idea of whether your hosting is going to scale, you can check to see if it uses Google Cloud technology (which IntoClicks is proud to offer!); this is a dead-giveaway of great scalability.

6. What kind of support is included with your hosting plan?

Let’s face it, things are going to go wrong and you might not know how to fix it. Great support is absolutely necessary especially if you’re working with something you’re not 100% familiar with. We’d suggest looking for live chat support which is a quick way to get issues solved, and often live chat is available 24/7. You might hear horror stories about hosting support, but with a good host and great support, those stories are just that – stories.

If there are more technical issues with your website, you’ll probably be connected with more experienced engineers using a ticketing system. This is pretty normal; you’d be looking for fast replies which tells you your website issue is a priority for them and will call for teamwork on their part. Engineer A doesn’t know what’s going on? Well, then they send it up to the next level to engineer B with a detailed account of what the issue is and what has been established already. Oh, and guess what? Engineer B knows exactly what’s going on now and has it fixed in two seconds.

That’s teamwork!

7. How user-friendly is the hosting dashboard?

This can be a little overwhelming for some users. Previously, cPanel or Plesk might be considered the standard hosting dashboard. Now times are a-changin’ and things are probably going to look and function a little differently. In our experience, the more simplified everything is the more user-friendly it will be. That’s definitely not an insult, it’s just a fact – things tend to be easier when they’re more simple. Do you have access to everything you need to accomplish your business goals? That’s user-friendly. Are you going to have a professional developer handling most of the hosting-related duties? A good host will have advanced features available for them such as s/FTP access, changing PHP version, and Git support.

Now go forth, mighty warrior, and conquer your website hosting!

With this information, we hope we’ve provided a thorough guide on choosing the best website hosting provider for your business (and personal) needs. That being said, we’re happy to be your hosting provider of choice for your WordPress website. Not only do we tick all the boxes listed above, we’re experts ourselves so you can run your business with the assurance your website (and best employee) is in good hands; that one less worry gives you more time and focus for what YOU do best – running your business.

Silhouette of man in front of blue circuit board cloud

Pair your new, awesome hosting with a website that is custom-tailored to your business goals and you’re set up for success. We offer complete WordPress web design to meet the needs of any sized business. From a simple, small business website to an advanced e-commerce web design with an integrated forum or membership website, we can create the ultimate solution designed to grow your business and help set you apart from the competition.

Contact IntoClicks today and see how we can help you succeed!

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